“Don’t Make Me Over”
is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, which also marked the recording debut of Dionne Warwick in 1962.
Dionne Warwick version
The songwriting/production team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David had been struck by Dionne Warwick’s work as a session singer on The Drifters’ “Mexican Divorce” in February 1962 and subsequently Warwick had regularly vocalized on demos of compositions by that Bacharach/David team, beginning with the song “Make It Easy on Yourself”. Florence Greenberg, owner of the Scepter Records label, had signed Warwick after hearing her voice on the demo for “It’s Love that Really Counts” although Greenberg did not wish to release that song as a single by Warwick (“It’s Love That Really Counts” was given to the Shirelles to serve as a B-side); Greenberg also rejected “Make It Easy on Yourself” which was subsequently placed with Jerry Butler, which would become a charted hit recording. Warwick had hoped “Make It Easy on Yourself” would serve as her recording debut.
Upon learning from Bacharach and David the label didn’t think her style was correct for their new song, and that Jerry Butler was selected for recording it, a keenly disappointed Warwick felt used, manipulated and exploited, and dismissed the team’s assurance of writing her an equally viable song in her own style. According to a Biography cable television episode featuring Burt Bacharach, Warwick responded by shouting, in nearly a crying rant, at the songwriters as she left the recording studio: “Don’t make me over, man . . . (you have to) accept me for what I am”. Bacharach and David looked at each other in the moment, in stunned disbelief, at her youthful outburst at them. David said to Bacharach: “Burt, I think we just heard the title of a new song”. David, never to waste life’s circumstances and moments as inspiration for a song, in fact went to work on lyrics and utilized Warwick’s authentic energetic outburst as the title and sentiment for “Don’t Make Me Over”, shifting the meaning of the phrase to “Accept me for what I am” and adding the phrase “Accept me for the things that I do”.
With the song composition completed, Warwick recorded “Don’t Make Me Over” under Bacharach and David’s guidance at Bell Sound Studios NYC in August 1962. The production, at the time, was a recording industry departure and represented a new, powerful, often-soaring orchestral-choir framing of Bacharach’s melodies with David’s either forceful or tender lyrics around the bold, fresh soulful female voice of the young Dionne Warwick — an original sound — the new Bacharach-David style of recording had been coined for the listening public.